Around this time of year, Denmark is a global hotspot for sightings of a natural treasure: amber. This resin seeped out of pine trees in the Baltic area more than 40 million years ago and became embedded in what is now the seafloor. It can reappear, however, during autumn and winter storms. Powerful waves dislodge ancient chunks and carry them to the shore, particularly in northwestern Jutland. Eager amber-hunting residents and visitors wait for the storms to blow over, then scout among tide line seaweed and sticks, or even enter the water with nets, to capture a few yellow, red or cognac-colored nuggets.
Amber is described as Denmark’s gold. Since Stone Age times, humans have used it in decoratively, especially in jewelry, or traded it, sometimes in faraway lands. Softer, lighter and warmer than rock, it shares colors of the sun. About 10% of it is transparent enough to reveal any insects and plant parts trapped inside, adding intrigue and value. Nowadays, demand for amber is high, not least because of its use in Chinese medicine, and amber can sell for almost as much as 8- to 14-karat gold.
-Photo of spider and other particles trapped in amber, by ëOnn/Steev Selby via Wikimedia Commons
-Amber Inclusion Club, Denmark
-David Attenborough in BBC HISTORY video Amberway: The Amber Time Machine
-Video: How to find rav/amber, Hanstholm (in Danish)
-IdeNyt.DK on value of amber (in Danish)
-Website for large commercial collection of Baltic amber
-Photo of amber pendants, via Wikimedia Commons